The graph shows the health expenditure (PPP & inflation-adjusted) over time, against life expectancy. The message is that while countries are spending more on their health systems, the corresponding gains in life expectancy are levelling off. Healthy (disease-free) life expectancy is growing at a slower rate.
In the 30 years to 2011, healthy life expectancy and life expectancy increased for men in the US, but healthy life expectancy failed to advance for women. Paper linked
For older men, longevity has increased, disability has been postponed to older ages, disability prevalence has fallen, and the percentage of remaining life spent active has increased. However, for older women, small longevity increases have been accompanied by even smaller postponements in disability, a reversal of a downward trend in moderate disability, and stagnation of active life as a percentage of life expectancy. As a consequence, older women no longer live more active years than men, despite their longer lives.
These figures are important: they show that the money we spend on health is not being as effective as it was, or as it could be. These figures should force an increase look not at spending after the decline of an individuals health, but preventative health spending (be it on food education, banning smoking, etc.)
There are two significant factors at play.
- Increased spending on tech, with (as we’ve seen) lower corresponding outcomes). US spending on medical technology accounted for around 27–48 per cent of health spending growth between 1960 and 2007.
- Cardiovascular disease (CVD), of which heart disease and stroke are components, is a leading cause of death in developed countries. The King’s Fund says “Many CVD deaths can be prevented, but trends in several risk factors for CVD are going in the wrong direction: while smoking rates overall have fallen, inequalities remain, and cholesterol, blood pressure, low physical activity, blood sugar and diabetes are on the rise in many OECD countries.”
We should redirect health expenditure on technology into more practical, preventative care, increasing healthy life and life expectancy in the process, and changing the course of the graph, above.